Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Published: August 28th, 2018 by Dial Books
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary: Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.
Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.
Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.
Review: I was extremely excited when I got chosen to review Darius The Great Is Not Okay. It’s one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 and overall it was a delight to read! MC’s, especially teenagers, that are from a middle-eastern descent unfortunately aren’t always present in the YA genre. But I am so glad that this book, along with a lot of others coming soon, is trying to improve the representation of middle-eastern MC’s in a positive light. It is also very rare to find a YA book featuring a middle-eastern MC who struggles not only with mental health issues but finding his own identity. Being a fractional Persian myself, I really appreciated all of the little tidbits about food, Farsi, and just the overall cultural representation throughout the book that I don’t normally get to experience in books. It just really made my little heart super happy! I thought that Adib Khorram did a great job in handling two topics that are usually hardly ever addressed in the Persian culture: depression and LGBTQ+ rep. Although the latter wasn’t really at the forefront of the story, it was hinted at throughout the book. I liked how that allowed Darius to take a step back and learn how to handle one thing at a time, showing his growth throughout the story in coming into himself and learning about his true self. He was learning how to deal with his depression, which was the main obstacle he was trying to get through, and him being able to learn that it truly was okay to be not okay sometimes allowed him to delve deeper into his own person. The evolution of his relationship with his father was truly so beautiful and heartwarming that it made me just want to reach in and give them both a big hug. I absolutely loved Darius’s friendship with Sohrab and how two misfits in their own eyes got to lean on each other and lift each other up. It was such a wholesome and heartwarming relationship that I think everyone should have/experience in their lifetimes. Sometimes the most important people in your life come at the most unexpected of times and places. I was a little disappointed with how abruptly the whole story ended, but I am really hoping for a sequel with more Darius and Sohrab!! I will say that some minor issues I had with the book were not actually about the story itself, but just the formatting of the writing at times. I liked how there were Stark Trek references throughout the book because it allowed the reader to take a peek into Darius’s brain and see how he tries to make an uncomfortable situation more manageable by bringing up something that makes him happy. However, if the references were not as excessive throughout the book I think it would have made more sense and more relatable to people who may not understand every reference. It makes me so happy that this book will soon be out in the world for others to relate to and also possibly empathize with and to widen the horizon of representation in the YA community!